“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). Another tool in our war with the flesh is following the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we “walk by the Spirit” – conduct ourselves as ones influenced and led by the Spirit of God – we will not satisfy the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16).
I think one of the lifelong learning opportunities God has given us as His children is learning to hear and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit. It is stepping back from the brink of temptation to say, “What is the Spirit saying to me at this moral fork in the road?” It is following your Spirit-trained conscience. In John chapter 16, Jesus said that the coming Holy Spirit would illumine our minds, not just so we could recognize truth, but so we could walk in it.
There is a brand of Christianity that says we cannot trust our conscience; the thoughts and intents of our heart. But given the fact that our conscience is now trained by the Holy Spirit and we possess a new heart inclined toward righteousness, it is safe to follow these inclinations of the Spirit. I think we are practicing the presence of the Holy Spirit when we do.
One of the moral forks in the road I face appears when I first wake up on Sunday morning. Sometimes I think that I would rather mow the yard, wash the car, or take in a Formula One race on TV instead of go to church to fellowship with my Christian brothers and sisters. That first thought is a temptation, not a sin. What I do next is a decision between sin and a holy response. Knowing God’s Spirit is leading me to serve and be encouraged by my fellow believers, I will generally make the righteous choice. And I know you will as well. Why? Because we are listening to the Spirit’s voice.
I like the way C. S. Lewis puts it in his book, Mere Christianity. “That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.”