“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:17). Up to now, our posts have explained the foundational aspects of our new identity. When we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we become a new creation with a new nature, a new master, new clothes, and a new heart. We have also done the accounting to register these new facts in our ledger. At this point we might say, “So what?”
How does this knowledge affect our daily thoughts, choices, and actions? How do we address our besetting or recurring sins? Does a new identity mean sinless perfection is possible? Or at the other extreme, does sin even matter now that we have been set free from the law? So far, we have developed the basis for our new position in Christ that became effective the hour we believed. This is “positional sanctification”; the setting apart and equipping for holiness that happened when we accepted Christ’s gift. Now we want to address how we move forward from here. This is “progressive sanctification”; the continual setting apart as we become more like Christ over time.
Paul summarizes how we are to proceed in Galatians 5:17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Our victory over sin and the flesh was won at the cross. Experiencing the fruit or result of that victory is another matter altogether. When we walk in the Spirit, we take the truth we know in fact and begin to live it in experience. On the flip side, if I do not walk in the Spirit, then what is true of me in fact is not expressed through me.
Walking in the Spirit is not about willpower, but about trust in God’s promise of provision in our conflict with sin. Walking in the Spirit is not trust in a set of rules, but a constant dependence on and communication with God Himself. Instead of a determined effort to change myself, I reckon myself dead to sin and rely on the Holy Spirit to change me into a person of humility, generosity, patience, etc. In essence, walking in the Spirit is walking by faith that is energized by love. We have come round now to the heart of living out what has already happened inside. Faith and Love, although somewhat abstract and difficult to measure, are critical to the task at hand. They are indeed the twin pillars upon which we will build the supernatural Christian life.