Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Walking In The Spirit, Or Walking In the Flesh

                I don’t feel like doing much of anything. In fact, finding motivation to be more than just a couch potato these past few days has been almost impossible. I just haven’t felt like doing much. A few days ago, as I was praying I realized that I was in a funk. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than it was a funk. I had no passion for the Word of God, I had no desire to do anything other than what was absolutely required of me, and in me there was this emptiness, like there was
something missing out of my life and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. As I was praying, my mind went to a scripture in Romans 8:5 about walking in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. In the middle of my prayer time, I found myself asking the Lord what it meant to walk in the Spirit rather than walking in the flesh. I knew that something was missing from my day, and I knew it had something to do with my flesh, and I knew that it had something to do with the reason I was in this funk in the first place. But I needed to understand, I needed Him.
                “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5
                Most of us have read the account that Paul gives to us in Romans 7-8 about his struggle with doing what he doesn’t want to do, and not doing what he does want to do. When I have read this in the past, I have always related to Paul because I too struggle with the same thing. I don’t do the things I know I must, instead I find myself doing those things I know I shouldn't be doing. I have always read these verses and found comfort in them. But then it hit me, as I was reading them again, that Paul was not writing these words in Romans 7 to give us comfort, but to show us that if we are battling this war, if we are experiencing the same struggle, then we are walking in the flesh, and not in the Spirit. The reason why we are doing the things we don’t want to do is because we are allowing our flesh to rule our lives, instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to rule our lives. I was convicted because too many times I have used these scriptures in Romans 7:14-25 to justify my choices to walk in the flesh, rather than making the sacrifice to choose the Spirit.
                One thing that the Lord has been impressing upon my heart these past few weeks is that the Christian life is a life of sacrifice. There is no such thing as the perfect home, perfect family, perfect Christian life. We are deceiving ourselves as Christians if we think that this life is going to be easy. It is not going to be easy; in fact, it is going to be exactly the opposite, it is supposed to be difficult. Jesus did not live a happy, peaceful, successful Christian life- He lived a life of sacrifice. Peter, John, Paul, all those who have gone before us did not live a life of comfort like we are living today as Christians; they lived lives of pain, sorrow and sacrifice. Jesus Christ gave us an example of what walking in the Spirit looks like, but we have twisted it to make it look like our flesh. More and more I see Christians living lives in the flesh rather than in the Spirit, and because everything is going good, and they feel good then they believe that they are safe. I am here today to warn you that if you are feeling safe in your walk, beware; you are not safe at all. The life lived in the flesh is a life based off emotions, and more and more Christians in this nation are basing their walks in Christ on emotion rather than faith. This is scary ground for us to be on, my brothers and sisters, scary ground in deed.
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                The more I read the Word of God, the more I study and see the sacrifice of men and women who have come before us, the more I see that we are not who we think we are- we are deceiving ourselves. I have been deceiving myself because I have allowed my emotions and my feelings to rule my life rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to have that right, the right He paid so dearly for upon the Cross. If you are basing your walks off the way you feel, then take care, and beware, you are headed for a fall. If you are walking based off your feelings, then you are missing the mark; we are missing the point of what the Christian life is all about, and instead we are choosing to believe a lie, deceiving ourselves.
                Paul tells us in Romans 8:5 that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on
things of the flesh”. Our flesh is tainted by sin; it is the part of us that desires to do what is in our nature to do. Much like Paul described for us in Romans 7- the will to do or not to do that is the flesh part of us. It is prone to sinful behavior, thoughts and deeds. The flesh desires to feed off emotions as well. When Paul lists some of the fleshly behaviors of man, many emotions are listed such as anger, envy, maliciousness; all these are driven by emotions. Anytime I “feel” anything, I am operating in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh will set their minds on fleshly things- our emotions, feelings, wants and desires. Our minds will be filled with gratifying our emotions. If it makes us feel good about ourselves, then we will desire it more and more. The flesh will crave the things of the flesh.
                But the Spirit will crave the things of the Spirit. Those who live according to the Spirit will live after those things that are of the Spirit. What kind of things are those? They are the eternal, invisible things, the fruits of the Spirit; “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-24a). The person who walks according to the Spirit will choose to be kind, even though they are angry. The person who walks according to the Spirit will chose to be patient with their coworker, even though they want to gossip about them in the lunchroom with their friends. The person who walks according to the Spirit will choose the things of the Spirit. They will deny themselves that they might instead please God. Walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit is our choice and our choice alone.
                So how then do we choose to walk in the Spirit? I am sure there are people who are going to say that this sounds like works and not Spirit filled living. The Holy Spirit will just live through us. But the more I studied these scriptures, the more I prayed and asked the Lord for understanding, the more I see that we have to make the choice to walk in one form or another. These past few days I have been choosing to live and walk in my flesh, because I haven’t felt like doing much of anything. My feelings, my desires and wants are tainted with sinfulness and go against God, yet here I am choosing them. (Makes you think of what Paul wrote in Romans 7- doesn’t it.) The choice to walk in the Spirit is in my hands. Paul tells us so in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
                “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24) Without effort nothing in this life can be gained. When I made the decision to quit smoking, I had to put the effort in to quit. I had to choose each and every day not to pick up a cigarette and smoke it. I prayed a lot I will admit it. I prayed through the cravings. I even prayed through the excuses. I prayed through the feelings of need I thought I had, I prayed through the agitation that the lack of nicotine was causing, and I prayed through the withdrawals that came upon me every single day. Every day I prayed for His Holy Spirit to get me through, and He did, because I allowed Him to do so. I chose to walk in the Spirit, when I could have easily walked in the flesh. Then one day, it just hit me- I was not having any more feelings of wanting a cigarette. They had stopped, the desire, the need, the wants that I had for them was gone.  The same principle is applied to us when we decide to walk in the Spirit or in the flesh. We pray for His strength to help us today to walk in His Spirit, and then we pray through the fight that our flesh is going to bring us. We must choose His Spirit over our flesh, if we truly want to walk as Christians. We must choose and we must fight. Paul tells us that we are all running the same race, but only one person is going to receive the prize. The race that you are running will not be won if you do not willingly and wholeheartedly choose to run it in the Spirit.
 “An athlete must refuse things that may be fine in themselves, but would hinder the pursuit of his goal.” (http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Cr/1Cr_9.cfm?a=1071025) What is hindering you today is what is keeping you in the flesh, and you are not doing the things you want to do, you are doing those things you don’t want to do. You are choosing your flesh to rule you.
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                Paul goes on to write to us in 1 Corinthians that whoever is competing for the prize is temperate in all things. (vs. 25) Temperate means to have self control, and if you know your scriptures you will know that self control is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:23) Paul shows us what living in the flesh looks like in Romans 7. I have used Romans 7 as a way to justify my flesh too many times now. My feelings have nothing to do with anything anymore, because my feelings are tainted by my sin. If I am to walk after the Spirit then I must choose the things of the Spirit in my everyday life. This does not mean that I am not going to mess up, that I am not going to sin- because I am. He who says he never sins is a liar, because we all battle with this flesh daily. But, we don’t have to walk in it anymore. We can live in victory. We can walk this life in the Spirit. We only have to choose Him over us.

               I believe that more and more Christians are being sucked into the trap that we can live by our emotions. I am reading about and hearing more and more Christians teach and preach and write books about feeling good about yourself, making the right decisions for yourself based off your emotions. Our emotions are a fruit of the flesh, but self control, putting your flesh into submission to the Spirit, will produce the fruit of the Spirit, and a life lived according to the Spirit. I don’t know about you, but from now on, when I start talking about how I feel, I will be more aware of my words, and pray that I put those feelings away and choose His way above my own. His will always involves sacrifice, our will requires none. To walk in the Spirit we will have to sacrifice, we will have to give up and walk away, and put down things our flesh enjoys. But if we want to obtain the prize, if we want to win this race that is before us, then there is no other way then to walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh. Which one shall you choose today?