by Mike Ratliff
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Undoubtedly, there is much confusion about the subject of walking in the Spirit. To some it speaks of the Charismatic movement. Others avoid the subject like the plague because they believe it leads to some form of Christian mysticism. However, many believers have found that walking in the Spirit or walking according to the Spirit leads them to a life of deeper devotion to their Lord resulting in more joy and fulfillment than they ever thought possible.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:3-11)
That passage along with the one I placed at the beginning of this post (Ezekiel 36:26-27) tells us that all regenerated believers have been changed in a dramatic way by their salvation. Was it the sinners who were saved by grace through faith who changed themselves or did God change them? God removes the heart of stone from those He saves and replaces it with a heart of flesh. He puts His Spirit within them. And He causes them to walk in His statues and to be careful to obey His rules. Many of you, after reading that, anguished as you looked closely at your own walk. What’s wrong? Why don’t believers actually walk in victory as God says His people will in Ezekiel 36:26-27?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am convinced that most believers read 2 Corinthians 5:17 above and cringe. The reality of their walk is a pale comparison to one that is a new creation with their old sin nature nowhere in sight. Instead, sin seems to rule and reign in them. They desperately seek fulfillment in all sorts of fleshly pursuits that do not fulfill. Entertainment pursuits such as Television, video games, sensual books and movies, et cetera are “fun” for a while, but more is always called for. The “fun” had for a season is no longer enough. Now we need new and exciting TV shows, movies, or games because the old is stale and passé.
What is wrong? Why are God’s people just as bound to sensual pursuits as the rest of the world? God created Man with a Body, a Soul, and a Spirit. The Body with its five senses is where Man’s spiritual being lives so he or she can exist in the physical world God has provided for them. The Soul was originally created by God to express and reflect Him in horizontal focus. The Spirit was the spiritual part of Man that is vertically focused. The Soul is made up of the mind, the will, and the emotions. The Spirit is made up of the conscience, the fellowship, and the intuition. Before the fall of Man (Genesis 3) Adam’s Body, Soul, and Spirit were all working together in living for God’s glory. God’s will was imparted to Adam and Eve via their Spirits. Adam and Eve knew God’s will because they had perfect fellowship with God. Their Souls performed their original function of expressing and reflecting God. Their bodies were flawless.
The heart of Man is made up of the Soul and the conscience. It is Man’s heart, with all parts working closely together, that pursues fulfillment. God designed it in such a way that it is only fulfilled in Him. Adam and Eve had perfect fulfillment before the Fall because they had God’s presence with them at all times. However, when Adam and Eve chose to sin by disobeying God, this perfect spiritual union died. The Body of man changed. It was no longer a temple. It became a vessel of lust. The Spirit of Man lost its ability to contact God. The intuition and the fellowship became deadened. The conscience could no longer contact God because sin had taken up residence. The Soul of Man, became predominate over the Spirit of Man. This was not how God designed Man. The Soul was never designed to be in control. Instead, God’s design was for Man’s Spirit to be in control with the Soul in submission.
What was the first thing that became apparent to Adam and Eve when they sinned? Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. They became ashamed and sought to hide from God. When God confronted Adam, he blamed God who had given Him Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. What happened to their perfect union with God and their complete fulfillment? Their focus was now entirely on self. Why? The Soul of Man was never designed to function in the spiritual sense. Their Spirits were deadened, but not dead. The conscience was still there and it was working full time in condemning them because it had lost contact with God. That fulfillment which came via His presence was no longer available. This resulted in an intense drive for fulfillment from whatever it could get from their vessel of lust. The sin nature that came to live within them not only cut them off from God it became their number one choice of self-gratification.
Let’s fast forward to our Post-Modern Christian experience. Are we still doing what Adam and Eve did after the fall? The lost person most certainly is living like that, but the Christian is a new creation. What happened at our salvation that makes us new creations? All three parts of Man underwent deathly change at the fall. All three parts of Man undergo resurrection at salvation. The Body, formerly a vessel of lust, is gradually reclaimed as a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) The Spirit of Man changes as well. First, at the moment of regeneration, the Holy Spirit washes the Spirit in the blood of Jesus, cleansing it so He can reside there. He then moves in. The Spirit of Man could not contact God at all prior to regeneration, now God’s presence in readily available to it. The intense joy most new believers encounter comes from not only their realization they have been forgiven of their sins, but also their fulfillment in God’s presence is available to them for the first time in their lives. The Soul of Man is also changed at salvation. However, that change comes after God starts sanctifying the new believer to mature him or her unto Christlikeness. The Soul must be matured and grown in Grace. The new believer must learn how to walk in the Spirit so that their Spirit is predominate over their Souls. This takes maturing in Christ by submitting to His Lordship in everything.
Do you see how imperative it is to learn to walk in the Spirit? If we don’t do it then we are mediocre Christians who are flesh bound. We are Soul-led instead of Spirit-led. Soul-led Christians seek fulfillment from their flesh. Their sin nature along with their un-denied heart drives them to seek fulfillment constantly. This drive is insidious. If you don’t believe me try this. Stop whatever “pursuits” you are seeking with your very active mind and focus your attention on one thing. Look closely at what your mind, your will, and your emotions are driving you to do. If you remain still, don’t they start screaming at you to seek this or that activity or thought process or entertainment? Now focus your “heart” on Jesus. Think of Him as your savior and Lord. Think of what He did for you on the cross. Think of how deep His love is for you. Confess any sins that come to mind. Now ask Him to grant you repentance so you can grow in grace and become a Spirit-led believer according to His will.
That little exercise is the process of Repentance with Joy. If we will walk through our days taking every thought capture to our conscience, not allowing any unclean thoughts to take root, we will have our hearts turned back to our Lord. Instead of watching TV, listen to godly music as you read your Bible or good books written by godly believers. Pray continually by conversing with God throughout the day. Listen for His voice. When a need comes to mind, stop and pray for that person or situation right where you are.
Maintain your godly walk by elevating your thought life. That means cleansing what you think about. If you are constantly thinking about elicit sex then that is what you will pursue. If you are always thinking of eating BBQ then you will probably pork out on ribs and brisket at every opportunity. However, if you monitor what your heart is up to by not allowing any wicked thoughts there, you must replace them with godly thoughts and pursuits.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)
Paul was right. If we will do this, we will turn our hearts back to God and, in turn, He will grant us repentance. That means He will actually grow us in grace. He will change our hearts to mature us unto Christlikeness.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
This passage is a gold mine of our responsibility in our spiritual growth. However, it is also clear that it is by God’s mercies, or by His grace, that we can do any of this. First, present your body as a living sacrifice to God. This is our spiritual worship and duty. This is submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. How do we do this? We refuse to be conformed to this world. How? Our Minds must be transformed. The Greek grammar structure in this passage tells us that this is a process. It continues repeatedly. The renewal of our Minds is accomplished by exposing them to God’s Word, Bible Study, and Prayer. As a result of submitting to this process, we learn what God’s will is. Then we submit to it and start over again.
Walking in the Spirit is simply walking through life with our hearts directed towards God and away from fleshly pursuits for fulfillment. How do we do that? We must practice walking in Repentance with Joy. This is a requirement in order to become the Christlike believers God wants all of us to become.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.