The Ordinary Spirit-Led Life
I attended a lecture this week which explored the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the Holy Spirit. I was struck by how the Spirit permeated and intersected with every other category of Christian thinking. You couldn’t neatly separate the Holy Spirit from what Paul thought about the church, or from Jesus’s life, or from our future resurrection. The Holy Spirit touched every area of the Christian life. In fact, it was Paul who said ‘Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him’ (Romans 8:9).
Now, please be assured that the Spirit isn’t reserved for a special class of Christians. God gives his Spirit to all those who genuinely trust in Jesus; to all those who confess that he is Lord. For, Paul chimes in again, ‘no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). If Jesus is your Lord, that is a sure sign that his Spirit is with you and at work in you.
However, I think the challenge for us is to think about how much we treasure the Spirit. Can we relate to Paul’s experience at all? Do our thoughts, prayers and lives reveal how deeply we rely on the Spirt? Or is the Spirit secondary, forgotten, and unimportant? Paul encourages us in Romans 8 to ‘live according to the Spirit’, for that is true Christianity. In fact, Christianity is impossible apart from Him! Hear what Paul says about this further in Romans 8: ‘For those who live according to the flesh (i.e. their natural, sinful selves) 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. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.’ (v.5-6)
So, it’s clear, we need the Spirit. But how do we walk according to the Spirit? Well, for starters, let’s simply pray and ask the Spirit to be our helper and our teacher in this (John 14:26). Ask him to guide you into his life. But, secondly, the Scriptures do give us a number of clues about the Spirit-led life. Paul alludes to the fact that this lifestyle is a battle of the mind. We are to set our ‘minds on the things of the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5). This becomes especially critical when our minds are drifting off into the things of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Maybe a critical thought pops into your head about someone; your Spirit-led response is to reject it and pray for that person’s good. Maybe we look at someone else’s car, or house, or lifestyle with envy; our Spirit-led response is to redirect our minds to thanking God for his utter generosity and goodness towards us! Part of what it means to walk in the Spirit is to redirect our minds to things that please God, which, of course, means we must dwell deeply in the pages of the Bible, for that is where we learn about what pleases God.
So, what does the ordinary Spirit-led life look like? Well, it looks like abiding in Jesus’ words (John 15:7) by reading, pondering and applying the Scriptures. It looks like a life of prayer; continually talking to God, processing our days with him, thanking him, crying out to him, appealing to him. We’re to set our minds on him again and again as we resist our natural tendency towards things like envy, selfishness and lust. These are some of the ways in which we discover the Spirit-filled life. And it is this kind of life that Jesus says ‘bears much fruit’ (John 15:5). And ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23).
May God grant us life and peace as we commune with Him by His Spirit,