If He’s more like a breath than a beacon, then how do we know when He’s been leading us? If, though we sense His presence, we don’t actually know where He comes from or where He goes to, then how can we know for sure it’s Him who’s been guiding us? If the Spirit of God operates like the wind (Jn. 3:8), then how do we walk in Him?
Some questions I’ve been chewing on as I read the latter portion of Galatians 5 this morning. It’s what I’m noodling on as Paul continues to exhort the Galatians to allow what began by the Spirit to be “perfected” by the Spirit (3:3).
“Walk by the Spirit,” Paul says (3:16). Be “led by the Spirit”–that’s what Paul wants for believers (3:18). What’s more, he writes,
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:25 ESV)
Sounds like pretty concrete, objective exhortations to me.
But, when all is said and done, isn’t Paul asking us to keep in step with something, actually Someone, who the Bible describes as moving like the air (pneuma is the Greek word translated Spirit . . . as in pneumatic)–though it be divine air? So, how are we to know when we’re walking with the Wind?
For sure, we know that we have been sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). And we know that He has been given as a deposit of the presence of God guaranteeing what is yet to fully come (Eph. 1:14). That the Spirit actually lives in us (Rom. 8:9), and interacts with our own spirit through some active, mysterious dynamic (Rom. 8:16). We know too that He’s come as a Helper (Jn. 16:7), an Intercessor (Rom. 8:26-27), and as a Teacher who will lead us into all truth (Jn. 14:26, 16:13).
But walk by the Spirit? Be led by the Spirit? Keep in step with the Spirit? How do you know when that’s been happening?
At least part of the answer, it seems from my reading this morning, lies in the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul explains in Galatians 5:16-26 that a war rages within the Christian. A battle between the Spirit of God and the nature of our old man, the flesh. They have opposite desires, operate out of incompatible motives, and manifest themselves through very different types of behavior.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .
(Galatians 5:19-21a, 22-23a ESV)
It seems to me that, while it might be hard to know for sure at any given moment if we are walking with the Wind, the evidence that we have been eventually becomes pretty apparent.
Governed by lust? Consumed with idolatry? Marked by strife, or jealousy, or rage, or rivalries and envy? Prone to drunkenness? Then it’s a pretty good indicator that I’m not walking with the Wind. Even if on the outside I’m pretty good at faking it, if, when I’m honest with what’s going on in my heart, I see these things on the inside, then I probably haven’t been keeping in step.
But, if instead there’s some evidence of a measure of increasing love, joy, and peace . . . if I’m surprised by patience, kindness, and goodness that really wasn’t all that me at one time . . . if I seem to be more and more marked by a desire for faithfulness, a demeanor of gentleness, an ability to exercise some self-control . . . then maybe, just maybe, it’s an indicator that I’ve been walking with the Wind.
Nothing to boast of in the fruit. I can plant the seed with holy desire, water it with the Holy Word, but ultimately it’s God, through His Spirit, who gives the increase.
So, while not a cause for boasting, the fruit of the Spirit is cause for rejoicing because it indicates that I have been walking with the Spirit, been led by the Spirit, and, to some degree, keeping in the step with the Spirit.
I’m thinking it’s one of the ways we know we’ve been walking with the Wind . . .
And that, by His grace. And that, for His glory.