Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Life Cleaning 101

Bob was an old-fashioned farmer.  When he had a big area of brush and trees that he needed to clear, his basic approach was to charge into the task with his own brute strength.  Using his ax, he was able to clear out 20 trees a day.  When his neighbor saw how hard he was working and how long this job was going to last, he suggested that Bob get himself a chain saw, to make the job go faster and easier.  Since Bob was no fool, the next morning he was down at the feed store purchasing a chain saw.  However, the following day he was back at the feed store wanting to return the chain saw.  He explained to the clerk that it was too heavy and too hard to use.  “With my ax, I can cut down 20 trees a day, but I worked all day with this here chain saw and was only able to cut down 5 trees, I'll just go back to my ax.”  The clerk thought Bob's story sounded strange, so he said, “OK, we let me just check it out and see if I can see what's going on.”  So the clerk starts up the chain saw.  Bob jumps back with an astonished look on his face and says, “What's that noise?”

As Christians, we have this tendency to feel bad about those areas of our life that need cleared out and we want to take Bob's brute force approach.  However, unlike Bob, we aren't usually too successful.  But, just like Bob, we have a powerful tool available, yet it doesn't seem to be helping.  A key to starting our life-changing tool can be found in the scripture.

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

This verse contains a causality (if A, then B).  Given that it is found in inerrant scripture, this causality could be classified as a promise.  God is promising us that IF we walk in the Spirit THEN we will not satisfy the desires of our flesh.

What exactly is God promising us here?  What does it mean to “walk by the Spirit?”  What does it mean to “carry out the desire of our flesh?'

The more obvious of the 2 parts of this statement is the phrase about “carry out the desire of our flesh.”    Throughout Scripture we are called to seek things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh.  So it is easy to see where “the desire of our flesh” is temptation.  So then, to “carry out the desire of our flesh” would be to give in to temptations.  While I believe that temptations are a price of being human and that we will never be free of temptations on this side of heaven, God give tools to “just say no” to the temptations of this world.

The other key phrase tells us what we must do to avoid surrendering to temptations.  It says we should, “walk by the Spirit.”  It does not say that we should try harder.  It says we should “walk” with the Spirit.  Walking isn't very hard.  We're not supposed to “run as if our very life depended on it,” but just “walk.”  This shouldn't be too challenging.

So how about “walking with”?  What exactly does that mean?  Certainly it is clear what I mean if I say that “I went walking with my wife”.  When I walk with my wife we go together, frequently hand-in-hand.  I can't say that I went walking with her if she walks north while I walk south.  We can only say that we are walking with one another if we are together.  Only by going in the same directions and making all the same turns can you stay with the one you are walking with.

It is clear enough what it means to walk with another person, but what about the Spirit?  It is certainly easier to walk with somebody that you can see and touch.  Let's look in Romans 8 for some insights into our relationship with the Spirit.  Verse 9 tells us that the Spirit lives in us.  So you might say, 'if the Spirit is inside me, then how can I help but to walk with the Spirit?”  However, almost everybody has had the experience of being in the company of a friend, but that friend wasn't really with them.  Being with somebody implies more than just being physically in the same place.  Right now as I write this, I am surrounded by strangers.  While I am physically with them, there is no link between us.  When our scripture verse speaks of walking with the Spirit, this speaks of much more than just having the Spirit inside you as you go about your business.

Romans 8 also talks about the ongoing struggle between living according to the Spirit and living to satisfy the flesh.  It says, “For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit.  For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.”  Much of the essence of whether we are in the hands of flesh or the Spirit depends on which we are thinking about.  However, the things of this world and the flesh seem to scream at us while the things of the Spirit seem to whisper to us.

The true challenge of walking with the Spirit lies in our need to stay with the Spirit – without distraction.  We serve a God that is more concerned with our inner person, our hearts and minds, than our outer actions.  So, to keep present with the Spirit requires us to maintain our inner focus on Him, rather than on the things of this world.  The “walking with the Spirit” means that we will keep our focus keeping that right-relationship with the Spirit that lives inside us even while our bodies are immersed in a world full of distractions.

When our Galatians verse says, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh,” the Lord is reminding us that it is not through our effort that we will be freed from the temptations of this world.  It is only through giving the Spirit access to our hearts and minds so He can work in our lives.  He needs to be the architect and builder of our new and improved lives because He is building them into a place where He can live and work.  This life-building process isn't intended to please people, it isn't to follow any human devised plan, it isn't even to please us – it is 100% for Him and His kingdom.

We can't do it well, why not just let Him.

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Lexington, Ky