But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
What does it mean to “walk by the Spirit“?
Does this mean our day is filled with supernatural feelings and impulses such as while we are driving we hear a voice say “Turn left and drive two blocks then stop your car get out and go into the building on your right. Walk up to the fourth floor and knock on door 412. There you will meet a man wearing a Beatles T-shirt. You are to tell him to stop listening to ‘Imagine.’”
This is not what it means to walk by the Spirit. It is possible that the Holy Spirit could guide us to do something like this, but that is not what the Bible means by “walk by the Spirit.”
To walk by the Spirit means to obey the Holy Spirit. To live life according to the leading of the Spirit. But first of all…
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity. There is one God, who exists in 3 persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are not 3 Gods, but one. This is a mystery. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is not a force or power. As a person he knows us, speaks to us, leads us, helps us, strengthens us and changes us.
How does the Holy Spirit lead us?
First of all the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
When we believe in Jesus, we are born again by the Holy Spirit, who comes to live in us.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own 1 Corinthians 6:19
The Holy Spirit actually lives inside every believer. He doesn’t direct us from the outside, but from our inner being.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17
Isn’t this wonderful! God himself takes up residence within us. He never leaves us. Never takes a break. Even when we are not aware of his presence he dwells in us.
The Holy Spirit begins his work of sanctifying us, changing us, making us holy, making us like Christ
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
We “behold the glory of the Lord” through Scripture, through prayer, through meditating on Jesus, by fellowshipping with other believers. And this passage tells us that as we do that the Holy Spirit “transforms us into the same image” – makes us more and more like Christ, “from one degree of glory to another.”
David knew his need for the Holy Spirit to help him and change him when he prayed:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12
The Holy Spirit begins to produce fruit in us
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24
The Holy Spirit speaks to us and instructs us, primarily through the Word of God.
Paul knew that the words he spoke were not mere human wisdom but were the words of the Holy Spirit.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13
Through God’s word, the Holy Spirit warns us of the dangers of sin, and convicts us of sin
So to walk by the Spirit means we obey the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s reminders of God’s word moment by moment.
To walk by the Spirit also means that we play a part in our sanctification.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t automatically transform us into the likeness of Christ. We must obey God. We must act upon God’s word. We must sow to the Spirit. We must “walk.” We are not robots.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-9
To walk by the Spirit means we do not “sow to the flesh,” or obey the desires of the flesh. The flesh is what remains of our sin nature. At one time it was our dominant nature and ruled us. When we turn to Jesus, he saves us, makes us new creations, gives us a new heart and fills us with his Spirit. We are no longer slaves of sin and our old nature. Now the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey him. But we can still be tempted to sin, though now we no longer have to sin.
So to walk by the Spirit means we turn away from sin and do good. We do not sow to the flesh, but to the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17
So how do we walk by the Spirit?
Take in God’s Word on a regular basis
Because the Spirit spoke God’s Word, reminds us of God’s Word, and helps us to obey God’s word.
Ask God to help you. Ask him to deliver you from temptation and sin and help you to live a life worthy of the Gospel.
Obey God’s word
Do not sow to the flesh. Turn away from sin. Flee temptation. Sow to the Spirit. Love others, thank God for as much as you can. Do good. Bless others. Encourage others. Pray for others. Give to the poor.